Moon is one of those films that I knew I was going to like just from the poster. Of course, a nice poster is no guarantee of a good film but there was so much knowledge of the sci-fi film genre (in particular the unofficial sub-genre that was the output of the 1970s/early ‘80s) coming through in it’s minimalistic approach, featuring a fine usage of concentric circles and small point typography, it just seemed a given that this would translate into the film itself.
Of course I hoped that the story would be interesting but more importantly I wanted/needed the production design to be of a certain type to create that specific kind of atmosphere that is so important to this particular strain of sci-fi. I think people of similar mindsets will agree, we all want to feel our jaws drop like they did when we saw films of the calibre of 2001, Silent Running, Alien, Outland, Andromeda Strain et al for the first time.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Here is a personal project that became a proper, albeit low-budget, production that through the love for the craft of film-making had an end result that surpassed most mega-budget films. It’s very definitely a genre picture, but like Hitchcock and Kubrick showed us, that shouldn’t be either a barrier to creativity or an excuse for a lack of art. Rather, for films like Moon, genre becomes liberation, a tool to set up the basic rules so that both the film-makers and audience can concentrate on the good stuff.
In Moon’s case this good stuff is a very fine Brutalist approach to production design. Those involved in the designer took on the language of those 70s/80s sci-fi classics to create something that was very knowing and willingly retrospective but at the same time managed to be contemporary in it’s vision of the future, rooted as it was in physical realities of contemporary space exploration technology.
This then is the key to the best science fiction production design, it’s should be firmly rooted in the futuristic visions professed by the science and technology of the day because, as it’s worth reminding ourselves, whilst on the face of it sci-fi presents visions of fantastic other worlds it is actually always really about exploring the underlying themes, fears and concerns of the present day; for Moon, the loss of human identity in the face of relentless technological commerce, with the added frisson of personal existential crisis. All that from sitting around drinking tea.